Erased by Kei Sanbe is an incredibly moving story about a young man confronted with a traumatic event from his past. Given the unnatural ability to experience time loops, he gets a second chance to save three people closest to him from a terrible fate. Rich, mature storytelling leads to an incredibly sad story of abuse, murder, and second chances.
Satoru Fujinuma is a down on his luck thirty-something struggling to pick up a career as a manga writer. He’s stuck at a creative impasse after his latest work is rejected for lacking a certain…spark. Satoru keeps himself afloat by working for a local pizza delivery business where he’s unable to connect with his much younger colleagues. If writer’s block and a boring job weren’t enough, Satoru’s life is made complicated by a strange and mysterious power that causes him to be trapped in time loops, or Revivals. These Revivals occur at random and are caused by someone’s untimely death. Satoru usually doesn’t know whose death causes the Revival, nor is he given any sign to point him in the right direction. Regardless, he must save the correct person in order to escape the loop. The Revivals are mostly harmless for Satoru, except for two separate occasions where we see him play the hero at great physical expense.
Satoru’s unique life experiences play out against a bustling city backdrop that is gripped by a series of kidnappings. In 1988, three ten year old children went missing and later found murdered. One of the victims was Kayo Hinazaki, a complicated young girl and classmate of the young Satoru. The more recent abductions spur strong recollections of the past. Satoru still feels guilt over not doing anything to help Kayo or an older boy he befriended who was wrongly convicted for the crime. Then, during a Revival, Satoru and his mother have a chance encounter with the kidnapper. Her recognition of the criminal results in a terrible confrontation that leaves her dead. Amidst the grief and confusion, Satoru experiences the biggest Revivals yet: he is sent all the way back to 1988. With his 36 year mind locked inside his younger self, Satoru decides to act on the opportunity fate or destiny has given to him. If he can save Kayo, whose abduction was a catalyst for his present day existence, then perhaps the future can be changed for the better.
Erased starts slow but once Satoru finds himself in the past, I was immediately drawn to the story. This is because I’m a big fan of time travel stories. It’s a genre that romanticizes our yearning desire to tweak our past. What person on this floating blue ball doesn’t live with a modicum of regret over past actions? Satoru is in an envious position and uses his knowledge of the present to try and influence the past by keeping Kayo alive and occupied on the day she originally disappeared. What he learns about Kayo along the way is the fuel that powers the Feels Train. Kayo’s childhood is tragic, and the relationship that forms between the two as Satoru gets to know about her is a warm light in the darkness.
Erased features an interesting art style when it comes to its character models. While Satoru, and Airi, one of Satoru’s coworkers, have prominent Japanese character features, other characters, such as Satoru’s mother and some of his school friends have features that, to me, carried a bit of a Western tinge. There’s also a certain sharpness to the visuals as the characters are drawn with angles and striking eyes. Things soften up and round out once the story jumps back in time but it’s interesting that it doesn’t share the look of most modern manga. It looks a little aged, though I don’t consider that to be a negative.
This book’s only detraction is that it ends without a resolution. This was only the first volume of a manga that has had 8 volumes released in Japan so far, but I was still upset that the book ends the way it does. This is a compliment, of course, because the story has gotten its hooks deep inside and I am on the edge of my seat as I wait for the next set of chapters to come out. A great story from start to finish, Erased is a touching story about what happens when we are gifted with the chance to fix a mistake and is an easy recommendation for fans of Makoto Shinkai’s Your Name.
Erased, vol. 1
by Kei Sanbe
Yen Press, 2017
Publisher Age Rating: T (15+)